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When Jimmy Hendermann Wore a Dress to School

Tobias Backman is a Danish author of speculative fiction. He tries to be witty, original, and clever in all his writing. You can watch him fail spectacularly over at tobybackman.wordpress.com. This is the first time the editors of Daily Science Fiction took pity on him.

The first time Jimmy Hendermann wore a dress to school it wasn't really a dress at all. It was a bright pink tutu, a stiff, bristly skirt. He wore it with a wide smile and strutted down the hall.
The girls snickered behind his back, pointed fingers, and passed around notes about him during class. If Jimmy realized, he didn't care.
When the bell rang and everyone else ran for freedom, I stayed behind along with Jimmy.
"Why are you dressed that way?" I asked.
He smiled at me and did a wobbly pirouette before answering. "I wanted to be a ballerina."
"Boys can't be ballerinas."
"My mother says I can be whatever I want." He did another spin and leapt out of the classroom.
About a month later Jimmy Hendermann wore a dress to school for the second time. He came clad in an azure fairy costume complete with a flowing skirt, small transparent wings, a pointy sky-blue hat, and a golden wand with a star at the end.
This time nobody snickered behind his back; everyone laughed right in his face instead. But Jimmy smiled and skittered down the halls just the same.
During recess he went to the girls' toilet and Judith from fifth pushed him up against the wall, ripped his dress and yelled at him for going in there.
I sat next to him in math afterwards and whispered to him, "Why don't you dress like a normal boy?"
Next time Mrs. Balducci turned her back to us, Jimmy sent a note across the desk to me. It said: because I want to be a fairy godmother.
Don't be stupid, I wrote back. Fairies don't exist, and only girls can be godmothers.
He read it, shrugged. Then he flicked his fairy wand in the direction of my bag. When I opened it after class there were twenty two apples inside. I never figured out how he'd managed to sneak them in there.
The third time Jimmy Hendermann wore a dress to school he outdid himself. It was a huge princess' dress, purple top part and layers upon layers of big, fluffy, white skirts. He even wore pink ballerina flats beneath just to top it off.
Jimmy pranced down the halls, smiling wide as ever, holding his skirts with one hand and waving to the crowds of whispering kids with the other as if he were their queen.
I tried warning him in class, but I never really managed to say anything. I don't think I knew what to say other than that he should run away, but that wouldn't help, not with Jimmy. He would've strided out there--proud, stubborn--and taken whatever the world threw at him.
That day Jimmy got the beating of a lifetime. He'd barely left the school grounds, turning the corner on Eighth Street where he was out of sight of the teachers.
Gary Turner, who'd only just managed to pass sixth grade the third time around, showed up with his gang.
Few kids were there to see it, but we all heard the rumors. And when Jimmy finally showed up at school again, his nose was a crooked lump, his lips twisted and scarred, and his confident gait was replaced by a slow, awkward hobble.
I don't think any of us expected to see Jimmy Hendermann in women's clothing ever again. But there he was in a long black dress with a high collar, an ash grey cloak, and a pointy black hat. His broken face and hooked nosed fit perfectly with his witch costume, not to mention the sod black cat that, for some reason, had decided to follow him to school.
He was halfway down the hall, kids and teachers staring at him with one part awe and one part contempt. Somebody yelled, "Show us some magic then."
Jimmy smiled, not his usual joyous smile, but a knowing sort of smirk as if he'd been ready for just that.
He turned around and pulled a cardboard box from somewhere beneath his cloak (though it seemed too big for him to hide in there). He threw it on the ground. The lid slid off, and out jumped four big, ugly toads.
I could've sworn one of them looked just like Greg Turner.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

Author Comments

I feel like science fiction and fantasy literature has taken some big steps lately in becoming a more diverse field. As a straight, white male writer living in Western Europe, my possible contributions to furthering this development are limited, but the least I can do is to include diverse characters in my fiction. This was one of many attempts to learn to do just that, so far the only one ending with a publishable story.

- Tobias Backman
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